Friday, March 23, 2007

I love this World Cup

For the first time, we have 16 countries vying for the cricket world cup… or is it just 8? Somebody would have asked till last week. However, the kind of upheavals that we have witnessed over last few days has made even leagues an ‘interesting affair’. Like mentioned in my last post, most of us were made to believe that the real competition starts only once Super 8 begins. But not anymore.

Many of us follow soccer as well. And more often than not, the leagues as keenly contested as knock-outs. You hardly see the score-line of 5-0 in any soccer world cup match. As a matter of fact, we always have some big team losing in the initial rounds. Who had expected Czech Republic losing to Ghana in the leagues? Who had expected Brazil not reaching even the semis? Such stories were unthinkable in cricket for there always was a huge void between top 8 teams and the bottom 8.

However, this world cup has seen some inspired performances – that has already pushed one team out of the tourney and the other is very nervous at the very possibility of it. What it means for the game is certainly good times ahead. More the competition, better it is for the game. I just hope that more such new teams come up the curve.

One more thing that ICC can learn from FIFA is about scheduling of matches. The world has come to such a stage that no sport where the stakes are high is devoid of lobbying, fixing, whatever you wish to call. It especially happens when future of a particular team is heavily hinging upon the outcome of some other match that it is not part of. FIFA, in world cup games, ensures that last game of all the countries in a particular group takes place simultaneously and thereby obviates possibility of any fixing. Something ICC should strongly consider implementing in the times to come.

All said and done, the cricket world cup has come alive sooner than expected. And India being alive in the tournament means a treat for 3/4th of the world’s cricket watching population!


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

It's down to NRR

The cricket world cup has truly come alive. And certainly earlier than expected. Hardly anybody had expected the leagues to throw any surprises and we all were conditioned to believe that the ‘real’ world cup starts only on March 27th.

But last week has turned the things on its head. If India losing to Bangladesh was a shock, Pakistan’s loss to Ireland was a disaster.

India now finds itself in a familiar territory. The territory that’s ruled by NRR - Net Run Rate. On so many occasions, especially in triangular formats, has India found itself with its back to the wall and remarkably escaped as well. This is one of those occasions, when Indians are badly praying for a stellar performance to find the team’s way to Super 8.

These are the times when mathematicians in cricketers come alive. The game is now in the realm of permutations & combinations – about margin of victory, about result of matches when India has no active role to play. But one thing’s for sure – that mammoth score of 413 is certainly going to come handy. Why? Read on…

The NRR is calculated based on cumulative of runs scored and runs conceded. Thus larger the absolute margin of victory, it carries more weight when accumulation is done. Hence, assuming the group will not throw any more surprises – read, SL beating BD and BD beating Bermuda – Indian are praying for a repeat of Taunton – a la ’99 – when Dravid & Ganguly went on a rampage. It’s just that with the above results, BD, SL & India would be tied at 4 points and a larger margin for India against SL could actually mean SL being edged out of the t0urnament. And believe me, that’s not a good news for India because entering into Super 8, BD would carry forward 2 points with India carrying forward nil.

Hence, it’s necessary that in today’s match SL scores ~275 runs and beats BD by a good margin, say upwards of 50 runs. India beats SL by ~25 runs or 2 overs. Icing on the cake would be Bermuda batting first in their match against BD and getting some 150 odd runs. That’s all we are expecting for India’s safe passage into the Super 8 with SL being the other team :-)


Monday, December 11, 2006

When 2 and 2 adds up to 5…

The other day, I was advising somebody to invest in entities that are diversified in nature and predominantly the ones that are spinning off their Strategic Business Units (SBUs) as separate incorporated entities. While I could easily drive home the point of investing in diversified entities by giving the analogy of not putting all your eggs in the same basket, the later one was a little too difficult to explain.

A layman that the other person was, or rather quite logical that he was, I was unable to explain him as to why 2 plus 2 could actually be 5. And when they are together they just add up to 4. His reasoning was quite simple: The business pre and post de-merger are the same. The management, more or less, is unchanged. As a matter of fact the economies of scale that are available when those SBUs are together as a single unified entity are no more exploitable in the new scenario.

I was scratching my head.

I tried to give him the Reliance example and tried to reason out. But even I knew that with two brothers splitting their empire, Reliance is a too complex story to use it as a case study for spinning off a diversified company’s SBUs.

As I was grappling for answer, my door bell rang. It was my cable operator, who had come to pick up payment of monthly bill and also that of my broadband connection. As I was settling those bills, the postman came with a bunch of mail. Inter alia, he handed over to me three Hutch & two MTNL bills.

Postman & cable guy gone, I continued my discussion with that gentleman about state of financial markets and the direction in which Sensex is likely to move. As I was unwrapping the mail, the discussion moved to the growth of communication companies. “It’s so obvious that these companies are doing so well. Look at my bills.” I said and showed him the 3 Hutch bills, pertaining to myself, my wife & dad, totaling to some 3000 bucks. “Add to that this landline bill of 1800 and my sister’s MTNL cell bill of some 700 odd. Plus broadband & cable TV. My family spends 6-7 K only on communication! Not more than 10 years ago, we didn’t have broadband – but we had a landline, that was more than sufficient – and we were still connected to the world through dial-up.”

In those days, I used to call up home may be once a day, in all probabilities just before leaving office. Today, in the form of mobile I carry a GPS instrument. And make numerous not-so-necessary-what-am-I-doing-update calls. 3 youngsters in the family spend 70% of their waking hours in office where we have access to internet and the broadband at home is used only over the weekends, for which I pay hundreds of rupees.

So, how do I justify my family spending 6-7 K on communication today vis-à-vis a thousand or two per month then?

Hey, haven’t I been actually a victim of de-merging of industries and unlocking of value? Same needs, similar means, separate service providers and I pay each of them an X amount towards fixed monthly rentals and actual usage charge over & above that. In earlier times, all of it was offered by one single service provider as a combined solution and the cost used to be much lower. What’s happened in last decade or so is that my wants have been converted into needs and different service providers fulfill only a fraction of those wants, thereby creating market for each of them.

That gentleman was now convinced that demerging actually creates revenue making opportunities for each & every spun off entity and thereby makes shareholders of the erstwhile combined entity richer. Even I was happy to have got a good analogy to explain the phenomenon but at the same time was feeling low for being at the receiving end of it.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Driving Test in Mumbai

All of us are aware about drink-drive-dash incidents that have become such a common place in Mumbai. It started with bollywood macho-man Salman Khan running his car over people sleeping on the footpath. Next was a Standard Chartered Bank senior official manging to do the same in Prabhadevi. The recent one happened in Bandra, again, when a 20-something, under the influence of alcohol, ran his car over the ones sleeping on the footpath. The following pic is a very interesting take on the same.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Perform for Paycheck

Indian cricket has been going through a metamorphosis of sorts – good, in terms of rookies getting flavor of international cricket; bad, in terms of on-field performance; and innovative, in terms of the way players’ pay packet is being decided.

More than a year ago, the players were categorized into A, B & C – criteria being their current performance & seniority. And the match fees that each player would earn became a function of the category that they are part of. And now comes another proposal that would tighten the purse strings of BCCI – Performance Based Pay (PBP) system – whereby every player would earn the check basis his individual performance in a particular match.

There has been a sense that’s increasingly voting in favor of this system. Why? Quite simple. There is so much investment that’s taking place in this sport by followers- in terms of time & energy and by corporates – in terms of sponsorships, that a sub-standard performance, like the one in Durban, should call for some kind of penal action.

Thus PBP system would ensure that batters score well and at a decent speed as well. Bowlers would strive to take wickets without being frivolous and fielders & wicketkeepers dive to save runs and take catches.

Apparently it seems little difficult to capture all above on a numerical parameter, but believe me, it’s not too difficult to reward
  • Batters who score above the average score scored in that particular match
  • Batters who have scored at strike rate above that of average strike rate in that match
  • Bowlers whose economy rate is lower than that of the average of that match

So on and so forth, and vice versa penal action for sub-standard performers.

There would certainly be some sections of the society that may not like the very idea of PBP system for cricketers – for they may think that after all it’s a sport. But as every faculty in life gets professional, it needs to get fair & just to all stakeholders. Businessmen work hard for getting that extra percentage of profit & may incur losses for sub-standard product. A salaried person earns his annual bonus basis his year-long performance. So conceptually there seems nothing wrong in weighing cricketers as well by a similar scale.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Churchgate station does an airport !

Maharashtra State Government recently happened to stumble upon this brilliant idea – That of frisking all passengers entering into Churchgate railway station. A full scale dry run was done on last Sunday and it got wonderful results with 100% of entrants being frisked and baggage screened.

The real test was to be on Monday – a working day. It was an evening as usual for passengers till they hit the station. There were welcome by security mechanism to ‘clear’ the passengers. And what followed thereafter can be described in just one word – Chaos.

In the peak time of evening, as many as 100 trains leave the station in just 3 hours. In that span of time 200,000 passengers hit Churchgate station. Well, what it means is that there are 1000 passengers landing on Churchgate station every minute.

Yes, you’ve read it right. 1000 people entering the station in just a minute. I think the best of the airports are unable to bear this kind of load. No wonder, the mechanism of hundred-odd security staff and handful of screening machines got choked in 12 minutes flat.

No wonder, passengers were frustrated because of having missed their regular 6.14 and 6.31, etc. Let me tell you train-goers in Mumbai are so very particular about not only the train they take but also sit in that train they occupy that any deviation therein is just unacceptable. I was told by many that to avoid this madness at Churchgate, they took a cab to Marine Lines to ensure that they avoid the security drill and catch their daily train!


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Indian, I am…

"The Church speaks out: We’ll leave no stone unturned to ensure that the culprits in the Bandra case will not go scot-free..."

…goes the headline of today’s Mumbai Mirror.

My immediate reaction was why church should be involved in this altogether. The boys causing the accident being Christian was just incidental to the case. Why should that be a pre-cursor to make church play safe & ‘secular’? I rather find it communal. For it necessarily pastes Christian identity on the accused, as against that of ‘reckless rich youngsters’. Why do we need to make accused wear mask of Christianity and make people say “oh boy, they are Christians”. And may be make people start putting colors to the community.

How different is this from political parties that seek votes basis caste, creed & religion. Those parties play communal card to project themselves as evangelists and the church, in this case, is donning similar role. As a matter of fact, I would expect the accused to be treated equally irrespective of what religion they belonged to, and am sure that’s how the matter would be dealt with.

This over defensive attitude of the church was absolutely uncalled for.

Similar is the case with class X exams that are conducted by the State Government. When the results are announced, we have 1st amongst scheduled castes and 1st amongst scheduled tribes, etc. Why do we need all these classifications? By making these distinctions, the students are actually made aware of their communal backgrounds and unnecessarily sensitized about them.

I believe that this hidden communalization of society is much more dangerous than anything else. When we are pledging that we all are equal Indians, the matter ends there. While it is perfectly valid to be religious and be proud about one's community, there is no need to create these artificial facades for ourselves. We are much better off without them.